Skripal case: who believes the tourist story?

The interview with the two men accused by London of carrying out the Skripal poisoning which was broadcast by the pro-Kremlin TV station Russia Today is still making waves. Some commentators find the men's claim that they visited Salisbury simply as tourists outrageous. Others note that even the editor-in-chief of Russia Today clearly wasn't willing to play the fool.

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Snob (RU) /

Even the interviewer resorted to irony

Writer Dmitry Bykov focusses in his commentary in Snob on the Russia Today editor-in-chief who conducted the interview - and concludes that she didn't just put on a pantomime ordered from above:

“Margarita Simonyan did everything possible to maintain a markedly ironic relationship with her interview partners and their version of the events. ... No employee of a state broadcaster behaves like this. This is the behaviour of a person who sees clearly that the unprofessionalism has reached a critical scale at every level and the system is wobbling. A person who no longer wants to be used just because they once agreed to be used under different circumstances. A person who is willing to be an ideological fighter for money and status - but has not agreed to be an idiot.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

Deadly "tourism"

Unfortunately the silly story about a daytrip to Salisbury is no laughing matter, Ilta-Sanomat writes:

“Russian 'tourism' is a dangerous thing, tainted by the smell of death. 'Tourists' like these fight and die in Ukraine, in the rebel-held territory Donbass. ... And they bring heavy luggage with them: tanks with heavy guns, armoured trucks, missiles and new systems for electronic warfare. ... 'Tourists' not wearing the insignia of the Russian Armed Forces appeared on the Crimean Peninsula in the autumn of 2014. These silent soldiers didn't talk, but they captured the strategic points on the peninsula very effectively. ... This whole story about a holiday is so unbelievable it would be laughable if it weren't a matter of life and death.”

NV (UA) /

Now certain that the two are guilty

For journalist Ivan Yakovyna writing in Novoe Vremya after the interview the only question is which of the Russian secret services carried out the attack:

“If anyone still doubted that 'Petrov' and 'Boshirov' drove to Salisbury to kill Sergei Skripal they can be dead certain now. The story these 'middle-class businessmen' told and the way they behaved when telling it dispels any remaining doubts. The only debatable issue now is which agency they belong to. According to the British intelligence service's version they work for the [military intelligence agency] GRU. This is a possibility but they don't look at all like the standard agents of this agency - they're too fit and too dumb. That agency normally employs not very tall, rather chubby and inconspicuous people who can at least put two and two together.”

Dozhd (RU) /

Interview was clumsy and ridiculous

The interview was a PR disaster organised right at the top, writes journalist Oleg Kashin on the website of the Kremlin-critical Internet TV channel Dozhd:

“The origin of this madness lies no doubt right at the top of the chain of command, at the level of the idea: when someone said, 'If you show these two on television the whole world will see that Russia bears no blame in the Skripal case.' This interview was thought up by Vladimir Putin. ... And at no stage did anyone stand up and say: 'No, that's a bad idea, nothing good will come of it. We'll be a laughing stock and these two men's clumsy lies will clearly be seen as the official admission that they - and not only they but also the Russian state - committed the crime.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

You can't talk well when your mind is in chaos

Andrey Lugovoy, a deputy of the State Duma and former secret service agent who London believes was involved in the Litvinenko poisoning in 2006, shows understanding for the erratic behaviour of the two men in the interview:

“They are accused of murder and of being agents of the GRU. Put yourself in their shoes. How would a normal person react. He's shocked and baffled. He panics. I, too, panicked in 2006. I wasn't just baffled, I was in panic, confused, my mind was in chaos. ... Not they have come out of hiding, summoned their courage and understood that they have to talk. These are normal Russian men. When they went to the interview they knew the whole world would be watching. I don't know, perhaps they took some valerian so they could sit still in their seats.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

We let Moscow lead us around by the nose

The governments in London and other EU member states still aren't taking the threat Moscow poses for Western democracies seriously enough, The Daily Telegraph complains:

“Britain has not risen to the challenge. The Government is reluctant to go after Russian money in the UK and hides behind the EU as an excuse. The EU is just as slow to act because some of its most powerful members rely on Russian energy supplies. Meanwhile, the West is getting beaten in the propaganda war. Russia undermines our elections not by directly fixing votes - as a few on the Left like to imagine - but by flooding our system with such noise and nonsense that it starts to look silly.”